There is a story attached to the Cousin Jack Classic II, you can read it here. As a Cornish woman (or “maid”), I like how this race is connected to local heritage and storytelling. I only found it by chance by googling “trail races in Cornwall” but given the take up this year, it’s clearly going to grow. As usual, I looked at it many times before taking the plunge. Weirdly the difficulty rating of “bleedy ‘ard” excited me but I knew with only about 6 weeks to spare, I would have to focus my training.
Predictably, the control freak in me came out on the day. I set the alarm epically early and made sure we left the house in plenty of time to get to Cape Cornwall. Weather-wise it was “bleedy freezin’.” Rain was forecast and winds were predicted to be about 28mph.
Well, what did I expect for early March?
The race started at 10am after the usual kit check (taped seams anyone?), registration, and 300 trips to the toilet. It was an uphill start to the coastpath, not helped by the Open Reach van parked in the way. It took a good mile for the field to thin out but before I knew it, I had reached Pendeen (about 4 miles in).
I have to say, for the first 10-11 miles, I was sailing. I felt strong. My pace was pretty good and I was moving my way up the field. Thankfully the wind was blowing in the right direction, carrying me along the inclines. I found I could run steadily for stretches but then have to focus on rocks or boggy, soggy ground.
The stretch of coastpath between St Just and Zennor was new territory for me. I didn’t find it too shocking though. I generally do most of my long runs along the Cornish coast and I felt it paid off. The terrain was uneven and there were many climbs. It’s never boring is it? There were steps, endless mud, streams, mini bridges and gates. All this requires concentration and I had to remind myself to look up from the path and to my left, to take in the outstanding views.
Somewhere around Gurnhard’s Head I took a wrong turn. I was following some men who were bombing ahead very enthusiastically. They went further down the cliff path than me but it was a pain. It’s self-navigation, it happens. It served as a reminder to look ahead and not just follow those immediately in front.
Now, I had already been given the heads up about what lay beyond Zennor and had checked it out previously. Having now completed The Cousin Jack Classic, I know I went on a different path on my recce and missed the most challenging bit. I knew this would be the most difficult section and I wasn’t disappointed. It made the last 10 miles seem relatively easy in retrospect.
Sure enough at mile 13 I managed a 20 minute mile. This mile involved (from what I remember) lots of climbing. We almost reached sea level and had to get around what seemed like endless rocks and boulders. A running friend says I’m a mountain goat when it comes to scaling the coastpath. I tried to harness my inner goat but didn’t feel so confident on my feet. While the climbing was hard, it gave my legs a reprieve, firing up different muscle groups, making the return to running welcome.
At 14 miles, my legs were feeling it. They were aching and sore; picking them up was an effort. In total the Cousin Jack Classic is 17.4 miles with elevations of 3334 ft. The last few miles were good, I knew the most challenging parts of the course were behind me. With a mile to go, I could see St Ives ahead. It was just what I needed. It energised my mind and I had to stop myself from crying (anyone else a total cry baby when it comes to races?). Despite feeling weary, my spirits were high and I pushed on.
The final mile of the run took us along Porthmeor beach. It was absolutely stunning. The yellow sand and blue sea twinkling in the sun made me think I was in a different country, By this time the sun had made an appearance but the wind hadn’t let up. Along the beach I went, around the island (St Ives Head) and up the last incline (the buggers!) to be greeted with one of the best medals I’ve ever received.
4 hours is a long time to be running (and the rest). It flew by. That has to be a sign of a good race. Well organised with supportive marshals who stood in the cold for hours on end. Cousin Jack, you are brilliant and I had a great time.